a uniform, absolute bar to recovery, even in admiralty cases. 100 N.J. at 258 (citing Carbone v. Ursich, 209 F.2d 178 (9th Cir. 1953) (permitting injured seamen to recover lost wages)).
Admittedly, Nautilus has provided substantial authority to support its argument that the Robins Dry Dock rule preempts state law tort claims. E.g., Testbank, 752 F.2d at 1032; In Re Exxon Valdez, 767 F. Supp. 1509 (D. Alaska 1991); IMTT-Gretna v. Robert E. Lee SS, 993 F.2d 1193 (5th Cir. 1993). For various reasons, however, all of these cases are distinguishable.
In Testbank, for example, the Fifth Circuit blanketly concluded that because the claims at issue arose from a collision on a navigable waterway and thus fell within admiralty jurisdiction, federal admiralty law, rather than state law applied. 752 F.2d at 1031-32. The Fifth Circuit did not engage in the Jensen preemption analysis recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in American Dredging. 114 S. Ct. at 985. Similarly, the district court in Exxon Valdez did not apply the Jensen test. Even if it had, however, the Alaska statute imposing unlimited strict liability for oil spills probably should have been deemed preempted under the first Jensen prong because a federal statute which did not expressly provide for supplemental state remedies placed a $ 100 million cap on oil spill liability. 767 F. Supp. at 1515-16.
Although IMTT-Gretna did apply the Jensen test, 933 F.2d 1162 at 1195, it did not have the benefit of Justice Scalia's interpretation of the "material prejudice to the characteristic features of admiralty" prong, an interpretation that the First Circuit characterized as "a twist that could not have easily been anticipated." Ballard, 32 F.3d at 627. The Fifth Circuit in IMTT-Gretna implicitly concluded that the Robins Dry Dock rule was a characteristic feature of admiralty law, a conclusion undermined by the Supreme Court's analysis in American Dredging, 114 S. Ct. at 987, and expressly rejected by the First Circuit in Ballard, 32 F.3d at 627-28.
Therefore, this Court concludes that federal maritime law does not preempt New Jersey's common law, which imposes liability upon negligent actors for "economic damages, aside from physical injury, to . . plaintiffs comprising an identifiable class with respect to whom defendant knows or has reason to know are likely to suffer such damages from its conduct," as it applies to economic damages resulting from an oil spill. 100 N.J. at 263. This Court expresses no opinion as to whether People Express permits recovery of economic losses in the context of other maritime actions.
Applying traditional principles of foreseeability and proximate causation, the Court concludes that Coastal is entitled to summary judgment finding Nautilus liable for economic damages to coastal caused by the spill. Coastal was not a member of the general public, whose presence at the scene of the spill was merely fortuitous. See id. at 263. Rather, Coastal was a member of "an identifiable class of plaintiffs . . . particularly foreseeable in terms of the type of . . . entities comprising the class, the certainty or predictability of their presence, the approximate numbers of those in the class, as well as the type of economic expectations disrupted." Id. at 264. As a berth operator, Coastal is a fixed presence in the Kill Van Kull waterway where the accident occurred. In the event of such an accident, it was entirely foreseeable that the Nautilus would wind up at Coastal's berth, its intended destination, to undergo repairs. In addition, it was entirely foreseeable that such repairs would take more time than originally allotted by Coastal to the Nautilus, and that this delay would disrupt Coastal's ability to fulfil its obligations to other vessels, resulting in economic losses. Since Coastal belongs to a class of foreseeable plaintiffs and its economic losses proximately caused by the spill, Nautilus is liable for these damages. Coastal has not moved for a determination of the appropriate quantum of damages and the Court makes no such finding at this time.
Nautilus' motion for summary judgment is denied. Consequently, Coastal's cross-motion for summary judgment is granted. An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
Dated: September 28, 1995
WILLIAM G. BASSLER, U.S.D.J.
This matter having come before the Court on the cross-motions of Limitation Plaintiff, Nautilus Motortanker, Ltd. ("Nautilus") and Limitation Claimant, Coastal Oil New York, Inc. ("Coastal") for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56; and
The Court having considered the submissions of counsel and oral argument on behalf of the parties; and
For good cause shown;
It is on this 28th day of September, 1995 ORDERED that Nautilus' motion for summary judgment is denied and Coastal's cross-motion for summary judgment is granted against Nautilus on Coastal's claim for economic losses only.
WILLIAM G. BASSLER, U.S.D.J.
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